Wednesday, February 29, 2012

QM bases

In QMs, the body has two bases: the anterior (the arms) and the posterior (the legs). They can be turned into mixed bases, lateral (arm and leg of the same side) or diagonal (arm and leg of opposite side).

The action of the arms is principally pushing (up or down), and only rarely in a mix of pushing and pulling. The triceps and shoulder muscles are particularly important in these moves. A complementary form of movement would be climbing, which involves primarily pulling.

Let us consider first the position and flexion of the limbs. The arms and legs can be straight or flexed to various degrees, but it is also important to keep in mind the relative position of the main joint (hip, shoulder) to the point of contact on hand and foot. The square pose, where the joint rests vertically above the hand or foot allows to go through all degrees of flexion of the limbs without moving hand or foot.

Another interesting posture is "pointed", where the limbs from each side of the body are slightly oblique, in front and behind the joint, making a triangular base. These pointed bases are both stable and well suited for motion, but they don't allow as much variation in flexion.

Both postures of the limbs, square and pointed, are good to offer relative rest. Depending on the amount of flexion and the distribution of weight between the weaker (arms) and stronger (legs) limbs, those can be more or less restful.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Definitions and uses of QMs

Quadrupedal movement (QM) is by definition any movement that uses hands and feet for locomotion. It includes all the fundamental activities: walking, running, jumping, balancing, climbing (which is mostly a specialized form of vertical QM), swimming, crawling, fighting (for instance in wrestling, but many other martial arts incorporate QMs), lifting and carrying, throwing, and all sorts of saving moves when falling.

So basically QM is more a fundamental attitude of the body. In fact, it is the first form of locomotion humans learn while growing up, and form a transitory type of motion before bipedalism (which is quite unusual if not unique in the animal world, by the way).

And yet, QM has been historically discarded in physical training as it "lowers Man to the level of beasts". It brought quite a few strong critiques on Georges Hébert's method and could not really be openly taught until the end of World War I, where Hébert demonstrated its vital importance for hiding from enemy fire while moving around. Nowadays, "going back to our natural roots" or "unleashing the inner monkey" are popular ideas, yet QM is still not widely taught as a general physical skill.

Perhaps the most important application of QM in sports is to protect oneself in the event of a fall. Most saving moves are indeed quadrupedal in essence, and so working on QM in general is important to build the strength and agility needed to fall without harm.

QM also leads naturally to some of the most athletic abilities in gymnasts, acrobats and now traceurs, such as flips, hand springs, and so on. Georges Hébert repeatedly mentioned his admiration of circus artists as most accomplished athletes and masters of the "transcendental QM".

This particular topic, too technically narrow and difficult for a general audience, is however not included in the book. Hébert's method was not aimed at training high-level athletes, but rather at describing the fundamental human movements that anyone should learn through basic physical education.

The QM book contains five sections: first an introduction on general topics (some of which I have just summarized), then technical sections on quadrupedal postures, general movement, crawling,and falling. I might not follow the same order always in my notes, but I'll label each article accordingly.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What is this about?

I have had the good fortune to acquire a copy of Georges Hébert's book on "Quadrupédie", the art of movement on four limbs, which is part of his master works on physical education with the natural method, published in 1946 in French and sadly never re-edited or translated.

I already did some fan dub translation on a earlier book which appeared on Google Books, so I thought I should at least collect a few notes and excerpts from this new book, which might be the most unusual and overlooked part of his teachings, although it has come back quite a bit with the growth of Parkour. All of this is of course purely subjective (even when I quote Hébert directly, I am still selecting a quote) and incomplete. I'll try to include some of the excellent technical drawings he had made, which tell a lot by themselves.

These quadrupedal techniques are not arranged as a series of exercises or in progression of skill, but rather described logically and exhaustively, grouping together movements of variable difficulty but related form of execution. Be mindful of this if you want to "try it at home", and make sure you understand the potential risks and difficulties involved. That being said, a lot of quadrupedal exercises are very efficient at building strength and flexibility for the whole body, and provide safety mechanisms in potentially dangerous situations.